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HEALTH

‘We have passed the Covid-19 peak’ says France’s health minister

Two weeks into France's second lockdown, the country's health minister believes the "peak" of new Covid-19 cases has passed and the situation is slowly starting to improve.

'We have passed the Covid-19 peak' says France's health minister
France's Health Minister Olivier Véran. Photo: AFP

Speaking in an interview on Sunday to a group of French regional newspapers, Health Minister Olivier Véran said: “There is every indication that we have passed the peak of the epidemic [in the second wave]”.

However, he cautioned that “we haven't yet defeated the virus. Clearly, it is too early to claim victory and relax our efforts.”

He was speaking as both the number of new cases reported and the percentage of positive tests showed a slow but steady fall, although death rates remain high.

He told the newspapers: “Thanks to lockdown, as in March, the virus is starting to circulate less.

“For ten consecutive days, the number of new diagnoses of Covid-19 has been decreasing, the rate of positive tests and the incidence rate is dropping.”

France has been in its second lockdown for 17 days, although several big cities including Paris and Marseille had a nighttime curfew in place before the lockdown came in.

Although the second lockdown is less strict than the one in March and April, with schools remaining open and more people going to work, it appears to having the desired effect as case numbers show a steady fall.

 

From a peak of 50,000 new cases a day, Santé Publique France is now reporting 27,228 cases in the last 24 hours, while the rate of positive tests has fallen from 20 percent to 16.9 percent. The R rate has now fallen to 0.81 across the country, although is higher in several places including big cities.

Since cases take up to two weeks to develop, this suggests that confining the population back to their homes has worked to halt the spread of the virus.

The numbers of new cases arriving in hospital and intensive care units have also begun to drop with 270 patients admitted to intensive care the Sunday, the lowest number for three weeks.

However the number of deaths, which tends to lag behind hospital admissions by one to two weeks, remains high, with 302 hospital deaths in the last 24 hours. Over the past week there has been nearly 4,000 deaths, including 1,203 in the nursing homes – figures which approach the worst days of the first wave in April.

Speaking on Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex revealed that one person is admitted to hospital with Covid-19 every 30 seconds, and one person is admitted into intensive care every three minutes.

In total 40 percent of Covid patients in intensive care are under the age of 65, and of the patients in intensive care, one in four will not survive.

Castex announced that France's lockdown will continue until at least December 1st, and indicated that even on that date there would only be a limited lifting of the restrictions – with shops possibly allowed to reopen but bars, restaurants and gyms staying shut.

He added that attestations for essential trips out of the home would be likely to continue after December 1st.

Speaking about a Covid-19 vaccine, Véran said: “A vaccination campaign will only begin when we have all the guarantees to vaccinate the population in complete safety. 

“If we have several vaccines, we will choose those that we believe to be the safest and most effective,” he said, counting on the possibility that “by the beginning of next year, three or four laboratories could (…) apply for a marketing licence”.

 

Member comments

  1. I hope that people resist rushing back into crowded situations and continue to mask and distance so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again in a few months.

  2. Correct Jim but don’t hold your breath. The original travel restrictions were lifted far too early because of the tourist industry and I can see the same happening for Christmas.

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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